Ask an Expert: Computer Communication Networks

By: , Posted on: July 17, 2020

We asked Editor Frank Fitzek about his new book Computer Communication Networks: From Theory to Practice.

What motivated you and your co-editors to have this book written?     

In our daily work, we witnessed a paradigm shift from “store and forward” networks to “compute and forward” networks. This represents a major paradigm shift in theory and practice for communication networks in general. We also noticed that there is no book available to introduce and provide a holistic vision of the upcoming revolution in communications networks. In turn, several tutorials and course offerings by the chapter authors and co-editors led to the idea of assembling the current state of the art and the outlook on the upcoming developments into this comprehensive book. We also wanted to take into account the paradigm shift in education with focus on active learning and hands-on experimentation to help readers to connect theory and already ongoing implementation possibilities with their own potential research desires.        

Can you describe the approach of the book and how it reflects today’s important issues in communication networks?

This book is geared towards a broad audience and one important approach is to provide not just students, but any type of seasoned or aspiring communication network engineer, practitioner, or researcher with a combination of theory and practice.  Pedagogical research has shown that active learning, i.e., the combination of theory with hands-on activities can greatly foster understanding and skill development. The theory introduced in the book can already be applied in today’s networks, which is important for many fields. This makes it even more important to provide the trajectory for theory to practice in this book. In addition to the combination of theory and practical implementation, the book aims at the possibility to perform the hands-on examples and exercises on a generic PC, which makes  this book’s practical part available to everyone without additional costs.

Who would benefit from this book?

This book’s main audience are students ranging from their typical first degree (B.Sc) all the way to doctoral level students (Ph.D.). We consider this audience through an approach that first highlights the foundations before moving into detailed implementations and hands-on activities. We also target researchers in the networking domain as we introduce novel concepts, such as CS, NC, and ML, and we demonstrate how to integrate these in a softwarized world with examples. Industry engineers that look at cutting edge trends in communication networks will find this book also valuable, as we describe not just the research background of these trends, but also how they can readily be implemented on today’s production systems.

A key part of the book is the ComNets Emulator and the underlying software implementations of Mininet and Docker. Can you say more about how the book presents the use of these and how that could help the reader?       

This book presents our own Communication Network Emulator (ComNetsEmu) that is based on several public domain tools such as mininet and docker (used extensively by researchers and practitioners) to allow fast adoption by the reader on commodity hardware. Most of the book includes specific sections to enable the readers to “see” how theory leads to practice and implementation, with several examples that make use of a variety of public domain tools. Several more complex, but fully functional examples are available in the ComNetsEmu environment, allowing interested readers to immediately execute them or use them as building blocks for their own research and development.  We intend to continuously expand the scenarios available for ComNetsEmu and further extend its functionality over tim

You have gathered together a considerable author team. What do they collectively bring to the book?.

This book represents the outcome of a comprehensive group effort that expands on several collaborations and demonstrates the concepts and potential of SDN/NFV to fundamentally change the communications world. All authors have extensive experience in research and education and are well-known researchers and speakers in the domain of communication networks. The author team consists of members from three worldwide research groups operating in the framework of the Deutsche Telekom Chair of Communication Networks as well as the DFG Cluster of Excellence, Centre for Tactile Internet with Human-in-the-Loop (CeTI), both at TU Dresden.

How do you see the field evolving in the next few years?

Continuing the current trends across industries, we will see the role of software increase even further, which is mainly brought on through the increased capabilities of non-specialized hardware that is ubiquitously deployed. This softwarization will lead to complete revamping of several industries and this book and its virtualization environment will constitute a milestone to learn and develop/prototype novel ideas and scenarios in this “new world.” We will also witness a tremendous change not only within the network, but also at the currently proprietary last radio link, where the OpenRAN opens the door to softwarize the RAN.  The Cloud RAN implements the core SDN/NFV ideas we discuss in the book and it will represent a potential extension of ComNetsEmu. The massive deployments of computing resources will bring with it considerable needs for energy, which will require new approaches to curb the environmental impacts for sustainability. An additional trend we worked out in the book is the need for ever-lower latency of the network, for example to support the Tactile Internet. Here, Quantum Computing and Quantum Networking are two trends that will likely play a major role in achieving the joint goals of low latency, high resilience, security, and major computing resources in the network.

About the book

  • Provides a uniquely comprehensive overview on the individual building blocks that comprise the concept of computing in future networks
  • Gives practical hands-on activities to bridge theory and implementation
  • Includes software and examples that are not only employed throughout the book, but also hosted on a dedicated website

The book is available now on ScienceDirect. Want your own copy? Enter STC320 when you order via the Elsevier store and save up to 30%

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